I think everyone is doing a lot of thinking about what they were doing a year ago today. I know I am.
I just looked at my dining room table and remembered my grandsons being here at the beginning of the pandemic. So many thoughts whirred through my head—how scared we were—how unbelievable it all was—how I was always trying to figure out what to make for dinner for college-aged kids—how we couldn’t find toilet paper or hand sanitizer or masks.
I remember getting my neighbor masks for her and her husband. I left them out on the bench by our front door. She’d wanted to pay me for them, and I’d said, “Don’t even worry about it.” When she picked up the masks, she left me a spray can of Lysol. I was so grateful, I got tears in my eyes.
That established a pattern of neighbors helping neighbors through the months. We kept in touch by phone, email or text. If someone needed something, we all pitched in to help—even if it wasn’t in person.
This was about the time I started using Shipt. I didn’t go to a grocery story for months. I did have to go to Costco myself because I needed to have my Shingles shot booster. I was so nervous!
This is also when we became addicted to Netflix and Prime Video. Through the grapevine or our kids, we’d hear about a great series. My husband is a binge watcher while I like to space things out. He went ahead in “Yellowstone” and I felt like he’d cheated on me!
Eventually, we had our first socially distanced cocktail hour with our neighbors. It was the first of many.
Surviving sexual assault brings with it another load for survivors to carry: guilt. People demand to know: “Why didn’t Dr. Ford come forward right away? Why can she remember some details and not the others.”
I can’t answer for anyone else but me.
I can tell you this: you never forget the fear.
I was 22 and I can still feel my revulsion as his stubby fingers came at me. I was lucky. I was not raped–I was barely touched, but I get a sick feeling to this day when I think about it.
I was teaching at Meany Junior High in Seattle. Someone had been sending me notes for weeks, each getting more suggestive. I ignored them, thinking if I did that it would all go away. The last note demanded that I meet the sender at a coffee shop. I didn’t go, of course. But what if I had? (Interesting, I remember the notes, but I don’t remember if I threw them away. Did I tear them up?)
The next morning before school, my classroom door was flung open so hard that it sounded like a gun shot when it hit the wall. I looked up. This man I considered my mentor came rushing towards my desk, shouting. He grabbed me, still shouting. He accused me of leading him on. Then he tried to kiss me. I struggled to avoid his lips. Luckily I was hardly touched. The bell rang and a student came into the room. Talk about being saved by the bell.
I was not raped physically but I knew if the situation had been different, I might have been. But had I inadvertently been leading him on? Maybe it was my fault.
I didn’t tell anyone for 25 years. It was the Anita Hill hearings that induced me to tell my husband and parents. My mother had said, “Oh, I don’t think that’s true. Why wouldn’t she have said something over all these years.”
I said so quietly that they didn’t hear the first time, “It happened to me and I never said anything.”
I remember some of that morning fifty years ago, but details have faded. Like I said, I remember the fear. I don’t think I had bruises on my arms, but I can’t remember. I wanted to forget it had happened. So I buried it deep.